ss-120224-afghanistan-01ss_fullA college-age student friend in Kabul and I discussed the protests after word got out of smoldering Qurans at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul. With our different news sources, we couldn’t agree on why this had happened, only that it had. The student was certain NATO forces had intentionally burned them and had intended for Afghans to discover their holy books in the trash. I’d gathered that both the burning and the discovery were more a failure in judgment. The student had heard nothing of the use of Qurans by prisoners to send messages.

We turned to the protests plaguing the country. This friend experiences how they worsen security and speculates this as a motive for the burning.

“This is really stupid!” my friend declared.

“The burning?” I asked to be certain that was her point.

“No, no, Afghan protests. Six have been killed and thirty wounded. Three already dead today. The dead leave their families without a breadwinner, and that is very hard here.”

An Afghan who believed foreign forces had deliberately insulted Afghans, perhaps to set off protests, and yet who was more disturbed by the Afghan response. Why?

“Quran means human,” the student continued. “Quran is in your heart, not in a book. Mohammed taught that books are not Islam; I am Islam. “

What about flag burning? My friend reminded me burning the American flag is part of Iranians’ annual celebration of their Revolution. “This doesn’t affect my country one way or the other,” I suggest. My friend relays a family saying about such activities: “It may destroy the donkey’s saddle, but leaves the donkey untouched.”

We share a smile, and, inside our hearts and minds, we hold our deepest values safe from the masses that react impulsively and violently around us.